With your union’s help, California has taken steps to stop evictions and protect renters who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much more remains to be done to protect tenants, but the following covers available protections intended to ease housing insecurity due to pandemic-related hardship.
CA COVID-19 Rent Relief is still available. There is no deadline, however, renters are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if they know they may struggle to cover past or prospective rent and utilities because funding for this program may run out.
While not everyone will qualify for this assistance, you can apply for it regardless of your citizenship or immigration status. Eligible renters continue to have special eviction protections under state law starting October 1 through the end of March 2022. Applying for rental assistance through the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program can stop an eviction.
Covid help for homeowners, too!
$1 billion in mortgage relief funds are now available to California homeowners who have fallen behind on their housing payments during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Qualified homeowners will not have to pay back funds that are awarded.
The California Mortgage Relief Program is funded by the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeowners Assistance Fund. It was designed to provide assistance to qualified homeowners who have fallen behind on their housing payments due to pandemic-related financial hardships.
Visit camortgagerelief.org/about/ for more information.
Here are the renter protections you should know
For renters who are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19- related financial impacts and who submit the appropriate declaration to their landlord:
RENT DUE: After October 1, 2021
As of August 27, 2021, there is currently no CDC Eviction Moratorium in effect. As of October 1, 2021, a tenant may be evicted for any legal reason, including failure to pay rent.
Between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022: A landlord who seeks to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent or other financial obligations that came due between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022 on a tenancy that began before October 1, 2021, must apply for rental assistance before the court will issue a summons in their case.
If you have unpaid rent or are struggling to pay rent that will be due starting October 1, apply at housingiskey.com or by calling 1-833-422-4255.
Communicate with your landlord immediately if you intend to apply for rent relief or have applied.
If you receive any eviction papers, responding to eviction papers within five (5) days can help delay or prevent your eviction:
- If the notice is for rent that came due between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, give your landlord a signed declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress within 15 business days of receiving a notice to “pay or quit.”
- In all cases, your landlord MUST apply for the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program before they can proceed with an eviction lawsuit against you.
- If you apply to the rent relief program within 15 business days of receiving the “pay or quit” notice, or within 15 business days of receiving a notice from the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program that your landlord has started an application on your behalf, you can stop an eviction while your application is processed.
To delay or prevent eviction, the renter should apply for the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program within 15 business days from the time they are notified by the program that their landlord has started an application.
- If the renter and landlord have both timely submitted a completed application with correct information and all required paperwork, both parties will be notified that the applications are complete, and the courts will not issue a summons until the program makes a determination on the application.
- If the renter does not submit a completed application within 15 business days of notice from the program, then the court may proceed with the eviction lawsuit.
- If the renter is deemed ineligible, their application will be denied and the court will be able to proceed with the eviction lawsuit against them.
Know your rights
- A landlord can seek to recover any unpaid COVID-19 rental debt in court after November 1, 2021. COVID-19 rental debt means unpaid rent or any other money you owe under the rental agreement, such as parking fees, that came due between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021
- If you have COVID-19 rental debt that came due between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 and you provided a declaration to your landlord that you cannot pay because of COVID-19 within 15 days of receiving the notice to quit, you are protected from eviction for failure to pay those amounts.
- If you have COVID-19 rental debt that came due between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, in addition to providing the declaration within 15 days of receiving the notice to quit, you must have paid 25% of the total amount you owe by September 30, 2021 to avoid eviction. If you did pay 25%, you can never be evicted for failing to pay that debt. If you did not, your landlord may start a court action to evict you beginning on October 1, 2021.
- Between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, if your landlord wants to evict you based on a failure to pay rent or other obligations between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022, and your rental agreement started before October 1, 2021, your landlord will need to apply for rental assistance before they can file a complaint against you in court.
- Landlords are prohibited from charging late fees or interest for nonpayment of rent due between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
- Landlords are required to apply renter’s rental payments to the current month’s rent, unless the renter agrees in writing that the landlord can apply it to a previous month’s rent.
- Landlords face increased penalties for illegally locking tenants out, or doing things like shutting off utilities or harassing tenants, where the renter has provided the landlord a signed declaration that they have “COVID-19 related financial distress.”
- Landlords and screening companies are prohibited from considering rental debt accrued between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, as a negative factor when evaluating a renter’s qualifications to rent.
- If a landlord wants to evict a tenant for rent that was not paid between March 2020 and August 13, 2021, the landlord must give the renter a notice to “pay rent or quit” that explains the new law AND a blank declaration form the renter can sign. The renter must sign and return this form within 15 days (keeping a copy and proof that they sent it), and must sign a declaration and return it to the landlord each time they receive a 15 day notice. If you delivered a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress to the landlord before the 15-day notice expired, you cannot be evicted for failing to pay those amounts, and the rent that you owe became a debt. Your landlord can sue you to collect this debt as of November 1, 2021.
- Unless there is a local law in place with other eviction protections, landlords may still be able to evict tenants, however, landlords may NOT evict tenants as retaliation for exercising their rights under this law.
- Some cities and counties have passed even stronger laws that provide even greater protections; however, because how these laws interact can be complicated, renters should talk to local lawyers to make sure they are getting the best advice.
Keep careful records of:
- All of your rent payments and receipts from your landlord
- Any communication with your landlord
- Any notices sent by the landlord and any declaration you send to the landlord that you have economic impacts from COVID-19
Get Legal Help
See Tenant’s Rights and Responsibilities informational flyers from the California Courts available in English and Spanish.
If you think you have met these conditions and your landlord still threatens eviction, or to be sure you are getting good advice about any local laws that will help renters in your area, contact the MAC at 855-810-2015, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.lawhelpca.org to find a list of organizations that give free legal services to low-income renters in your area.
We’ll continue fighting for the much-needed long-term housing security our members need to remain in their homes while California recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.